While the process can be a difficult one to face, estate planning provides numerous benefits for yourself and your loved ones. Unfortunately, many people don’t think ahead. Around 68% of people in the United States don’t have a will.
Planning an estate is so much more than determining who will get your assets and belongings after you pass away. It helps make the transition of your estate easier for your loved ones. You’re also able to choose someone to be a guardian for any children you have that are minors.
Being prepared and meeting with estate planning lawyers is vital. This guide will go over what you need to do to prepare for planning your estate.
Create and Sign a Will
A will is important for designating who your heirs are and what assets they’ll receive. You’ll also name who the personal representative (sometimes called an executor) of your will is. They’ll have the responsibility and power to pay any remaining debts.
The personal representative will also distribute your estate in accordance with your wishes that are laid out in the document. If you pass away before you have a will in place, your assets and property will be distributed according to the laws in your state.
Having a signed will in place ensures that your assets go to the people you want them to go to.
Explore a Trust
A trust is slightly different from a will. Wills could sometimes go to probate court where it would be determined if the document is valid. A trust avoids that possibility.
You’ll assign a trustee the legal title of holding your property for your beneficiary. In many cases, you can be the trustee, maintaining complete control over your property. After you pass away, the ownership is transferred over to the beneficiary.
Working with estate planning attorneys can help you determine if a will or living trust is best suited for your needs.
Itemize Your Property and Non-Physical Assets
Go through all of the items inside and outside of your home. Create a list of all the valuable items you have. This list can include items such as:
- Your house itself
- Power tools
- Lawn equipment
Your list of items will likely be much longer than you expect. As you make the list, make a note if you want that item to go to a particular person.
Next, begin adding any non-tangible assets to the list you started. These types of items can include:
- Bank accounts
- 401(k) plans
- Life insurance policies
- Other policies such as health, auto, and homeowners insurance
In this list, include the account numbers for all the policies. Note where the physical documents associated with any of them are located.
Create a List of Debts
One thing that is handled for your estate after you pass away is paying off your debts. Make another list that includes open credit cards, loans, mortgages, and any other financial obligations you have.
Like before, add the account information and location of agreements to the list. If you have online accounts for any of these debts, include your login information as well.
Determine What Your Family’s Needs Are
Once you have a good sense of the items in your estate and what your debts are, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll protect your assets and your loved ones after you pass away.
Look at your life insurance policy. Think about if the amount it’s set for is enough to adequately help your family. They’ll likely use a portion of it for funeral costs, so determine if there’s enough to cover that cost and additional expenses.
If you have minor children, name a guardian for them. You can also include a backup guardian. This will help avoid any potential family court battles and unexpected heartache.
On the same note, document your wishes for the care of your children. Don’t assume that your family members share the same goals as you do for your children. If you have specific things you want to be addressed, make sure those are noted down.
Create Your Directives
When planning your estate, there are a few legal directives that need to be addressed. In addition to a trust or will, you’ll need a medical care directive. There are many kinds that you can review with an estate planning attorney to see which kind is right for you.
A durable financial power of attorney gives an individual the ability to manage your personal financial affairs. They’ll pay your taxes and bills, and manage your assets.
A limited power of attorney grants an individual the power of being able to sign various documents for you. When selecting someone to be your power of attorney, be mindful of who you choose. You’re giving this person a lot of responsibility and power on your behalf.
Evaluate if You Need Professional Help
No matter the size of your estate, working with legal professionals ensures your estate is planning effectively. Consulting an attorney in Watertown guarantees the process is done properly. If your estate is complex, an attorney is vital to the entire process.
Work With Attorneys in Watertown for Your Estate Planning Needs
It can be intimidating trying to figure out estate planning on your own. There are a lot of different aspects to take into consideration. Consider hiring an estate planning attorney to help you through the process.
Our lawyers in Watertown have years of experience with estate planning. Fill out our online contact form today.